If you’ve had a longstanding relationship with a narcissist, there is a high probability that you’ve been emotionally or relationally burned.  Being insensitive and controlling, narcissists show little regard for your most basic needs, but instead they feel compelled to fit you into their grooves, regardless of the cost to you.

It’s only natural that you would desire civility, decency, and respect in your closest relationships.  But narcissists are not forthcoming with such qualities.  Instead, they are prone toward dishonesty, manipulations, insults, unfounded anger, betrayal, humiliation, and the like.

Over time, as you are unable to compel the narcissist to be fair, you will yearn for some form of justice or closure.  Then, as justice is elusive (particularly as your pain does not abate), you can desire some sort of revenge.  It’s only natural to want repayment for your strains, so that’s where your mind can go.

A major problem arises, though, as you seek revenge against a narcissist, especially when that person realizes your intentions.  That is, they will typically double down on their dysfunctional traits.  They will declare themselves the victim and you as the oppressor.  And they will have increasing issues of contempt and disregard toward you.  Feeling perpetually entitled, they refuse to be a loser, therefore, they must win and you must be vanquished.

As you consider the possibility of seeking revenge against a narcissist, there are several thoughts to keep in mind:

  • To narcissists, relationships are a competition and they can become quite destructive as they seek to show you who’s the boss.  Is that what you want?
  • Narcissists lack humility, meaning they will not admit flaws, nor will they adjust to you.  In their minds, they are superior, meaning you are automatically assigned the inferior role.
  • Narcissists consistently use the defense of denial.  When problems arise, they will not admit their culpability, which means you will be blamed for any strain inside your relationship.  They are perpetually the victim.
  • Narcissists not only have ongoing anger issues, they are committed to their anger as a personal right.  They truly feel justified in unloading their pain onto you and will rarely notice how damaging their emotion is.
  • As you seek to level the playing field with the narcissist, you have very low credibility by virtue of the fact that you are merely distinct.

It is essential to understand that narcissists are poisoned inwardly by their own toxic emotions.  That being the case, it makes no sense for you to match pitch with them, nor is it wise to let that person set your pace emotionally.  Narcissists are broken people who do not manage life well, and they take great delight when they can find someone who (to them) seems even more broken.  And to them, that someone is you.

The old saying reminds us that two wrongs don’t make a right.  Seeking revenge against a narcissist makes you a less effective person in general and it does little to settle the debt owed you by the narcissist.

Even as you choose, however, not to seek revenge, you still have options.  It is quite reasonable be assertive, setting consequences and stipulations for their various negative behaviors.  When applicable, seeking restitution or accountability is in order, as is the establishment of personal boundaries.  You can decide to refrain from contact with that person, or at the very least, you can minimize contact.  

Many people who have been greatly harmed by a narcissist can chafe when it seems they cannot gain full and fair retribution against that person, and such emotion is understandable.  Yet, it is simply true that we live in a broken world and we can often encounter very broken individuals.  

Your task is to not add to the brokenness. 

Remember, relationships are not a competition.  Instead, you can redouble your efforts to be as wise and decent as possible even as you put your personal boundaries in place.  You will acknowledge that bitterness and contempt are always options, but in selecting those options you remain tethered to the narcissist.

Along with your assertions and boundaries, goodness, honor, integrity, balance and love are always available as you decide how to proceed.  Let that become your ultimate legacy, even as the narcissists wallow in their self-induced emotional filth.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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